As textbook prices soar, new website will help students swoop

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By Adriana Pinegar

The start of a semester can mean a new apartment, a new schedule and a new book list, which can put a significant dent in any student’s meager bank account.

The founders of SwoopThat.com are seeking to soften that blow dealt to students’ wallets. The new website helps students find the lowest prices on textbooks by providing price comparisons. The service is free, and according to a news release, students from more than 145 colleges and universities will be able to find price comparisons for all required reading materials.

“Our goal is to increase price transparency for students through a time-efficient process, showing them every available option for their books, including free digital textbooks and letting them decide where to go from there,” said Jonathan Simpkin, co-founder of SwoopThat.

The price of textbooks is a burden for many students. According to the Government Accountability Office, textbook prices have risen at double the rate of inflation. In a recent study, Lynn O’Shaugnessey, author of the blog The College Solution, found students spend on average $760 a year on textbooks.

“College textbooks are ridiculously expensive, and one reason why they’re expensive is because textbook publishers really only have one shot at kids,” O’Shaughnessy said in a report by Phoenix’s Fox10. “So what publishers tend to do, because they only have one shot at kids, is they keep putting out new editions so they can get more money.”

Some students, like Chelsey Frost, a sophomore at UVU, have tried to find ways around the soaring prices of books.

It’s pretty rare that I buy a textbook, only if I know that I absolutely need it,” Frost said. “And that tends to happen at some point in the middle of the semester.”

Alex Vaughn, a junior from Las Vegas, also avoids buying textbooks if the price tag is too high.

“I sometimes find the textbook at the library if I have to or borrow from a classmate,” she said. “One time I went to the Bookstore, found the book I needed, sat and did an assignment, but then got kicked out. Apparently that’s not allowed.”

Other students have come to accept that buying books is part of college.

“I think of it as a sunk cost,” said Clay Wilkes, a junior majoring in Spanish. “While I’m here at college, I might as well buy the books.”

Craig Whitaker, an economics student, also views textbook costs as unavoidable.

“If you’re in college, you’ve got to buy outrageously priced textbooks just like you’ve got to pay taxes,” he said.

However, with the help of SwoopThat, the inevitable cost of books for students could be lessened.

“I would much rather spend the money I use for textbooks on something else,” Wilkes said. “So if [SwoopThat] makes the price lower, it’s a great service that I’m going to use.”

The website also offers assistance in selling used textbooks. SwoopThat searches online vendors to locate the highest buyback price.

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